Algal Mechanisms

Over 85 percent of plant species are called C3 because the enzyme Rubisco converts the carbon dioxide into a carbohydrate made up of three carbon atoms. Rubisco is an inefficient enzyme because it cannot distinguish between carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules. Around 35 percent of the time, Rubisco binds with oxygen instead of carbon dioxide, resulting in wasted energy and reduced photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) have overcome this limitation of Rubisco by evolving mini-organelles, called carboxysomes, to house Rubisco. Bicarbonate pumps surround Rubisco with high concentration of carbon dioxide so that oxygen cannot Rubisco.

Models suggest that re-engineering the active bicarbonate pumps and carboxysome structures could greatly improve photosynthetic efficiency in crops. Many proteins are required to form carboxysomes and active pumps, making this is a particularly high-risk strategy, but one that could pay maximum dividends. However, our team from The Australian National University has already had success building carboxysome-like structures in a crop plant; learn more about their work in the video below. 

Eng Kee Au
Wei Yih (Wil) Hee
Ben Long
Justin McGrath
James Moroney
Dean Price
Viviana Rosati
Sarah Rottet
Loraine Rourke
Susanne von Caemmerer
Suyan Yee

Turbo-Charged Photosynthesis Could Make Crops Grow Faster While Using Fewer Nutrients

One of the great ironies of evolution is that almost all known life depends on one of the slowest and most inefficient enzymes on Earth. Now scientists have taken the largest step towards transferring a work-around from cyanobacteria into a plant.

By: IFLScience 


Crop genetic benefit two fold thanks to algae

Alge has long been known to be one of natures greatest carbon sinks, with some estimates being as high as 25% of carbon being captured into the biosphere by micro-organisms. Now researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have engineered tiny carbon-capturing engines from blue-green algae into plants.

By: Cameron Costigan | Into the Void Science

Researchers hold tobacco plants next to growth chambers.

Algae could be crucial to boosting crop yields

Scientists have made the break through, into the way plants convert carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight into energy.

By: Eddie Summerfield | 2GB 873 AM

Jim Moroney

Missing link in algal photosynthesis found, offers opportunity to improve crop yields

Our team discovered a missing link in the photosynthetic process of green algae that could help boost crop productivity.

Team stands in greenhouse holding plant.

Blue-green algae promises to help boost food crop yields

In a breakthrough, RIPE has engineered tiny carbon-capturing engines from blue-green algae into plants to significantly boost crop yields one day.

Steve Long

Team models photosynthesis and finds room for improvement

Teaching crop plants to concentrate carbon dioxide in their leaves could increase photosynthetic efficiency by 60 percent.